August 16, 2022

Next Generation Library Publishing project: Portable data, modular tools, and shared values

As a follow on to our Building Data Resilience through Collaborative Networks Symposium, we are publishing a blog series featuring each of our presenters. This is the third in that series. 

Back in 2017, Elsevier acquired the Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress), the journals and institutional repository platform of choice for a great many library publishers who sought to provide open access, values-driven publishing solutions for their academic communities. The acquisition of bepress meant that all these programs– focused on open research, open data, and open publications–were now providing those services on a platform owned by a commercial publisher who had become, for many, emblematic of a profit-driven scholarly communication system that no longer served the interests of the academic community. 

The Next Generation Library Publishing (NGLP) project seeks to ensure that this sort of thing won’t happen again – that the infrastructure supporting the publication of academic research will, itself, align with the library publishing community’s commitment to the open, equitable and sustainable distribution of knowledge. To that end, NGLP is focusing its Arcadia-funded work on three core pathways for establishing open, resilient and compelling publishing solutions for the library publishing community: Values, Modularity, and Interdependence.



Scholars and other scholarly communications stakeholders have critiqued the commercial publishing industry and called for change for decades, yet none of these manifestos or declarations of values and principles have provided mechanisms for actors in this space to concretely evaluate themselves against certain standards or improve their own practices in a measurable way.

NGLP has worked with a broad range of academic stakeholders to more concretely define their values and principles and associate them with measurable actions. The FOREST Framework makes visible the ongoing values-aligned policies and practices of all parties (publishers, tool developers, and service providers) who engage with the NGLP environment, incentivizing them to intentionally improve their alignment with these values over time. 

The FOREST Framework distills six core values and defines them in action-based and measurement-oriented terms:

Financial and organizational resilience
Responsible governance 
Equity, accessibility, anti-oppression
Sharing of knowledge

These values are a foundational piece of the future we are building toward with NGLP: we believe that data and the publications that derive from that data should be open and that the management of these research outputs should also be handled by organizations whose values are in alignment with the stakeholders they serve.



Modularity reduces reliance on any one software: it protects the ability to pivot to new solutions as the need arises. So, rather than building a completely new publishing and institutional repository stack for the NGLP project, we are working with widely adopted upstream systems for submission, curation, preservation, etc. and are focusing our development work on a flexible and powerful front end, the Web Delivery Platform (WDP), that has the capacity to unify display of content across these upstream systems.  

Our software project balances flexibility (we want the software to be content agnostic, work for different scales and contexts) with standardization (we want to facilitate interoperability, machine-readability, and data portability).

The WDP ingests content from multiple submission and curation systems–such as Janeway, OJS, and DSpace–into a unified discovery and display platform. Administrators can mix and match content into different collections, customize templates for different community pages, and support a single access point to a rich portfolio of content. The WDP meets a range of use cases, from a single library publisher unifying content from both a journal publishing platform and an institutional repository, to a consortial publisher aggregating content across multiple campuses or affiliated organizations.

The system works with the widely adopted metadata standards JATS and MODS for metadata, harvested via OAI-PMH; and JATS for full text. Data structures are not hard coded, but defined by JSON schemas, which provides flexibility, while also ensuring machine-readability, data integrity, and portability. 



Open source technologies are aligned with our values and are crucial components of the kind of modularity and flexibility we seek, but they can also be brittle. It’s important to find ways to leverage the important work that has already been done in this space, but also to solidify it by creating sustainable models for the future. 

An interdependent approach to academic publishing recognizes that there is no single publishing workflow or platform that can address the distinct methods and practices of scholars across the academic spectrum. We believe the landscape of publishing solutions needs to provide a range of options that can be combined and recombined in ways that reflect and support the diversity of author and reader needs and practices.

Such interdependence, of course, cannot be accomplished through goodwill and good intentions alone. It requires independent entities to agree to balance the very real needs of their solo endeavors with the needs of the collective and to actively and continuously calibrate their own activities so that they support both. Interdependence has to resonate with those who bind together in a collective, not just as an ideal but also as tangible benefits that each member of the collective can see and feel and value.

NGLP recognizes the importance of reliable, well-resourced platforms; the productive distinctions that can arise in unaffiliated technology projects; and the necessity of aligning these efforts to create cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships that distribute resources and provide robust publishing services suites for scholars and library publishers. 


CASE STUDY:  Longleaf Publishing Services, UNC Press

John Sherer, Director of UNC Press, provides a case study below of a new service provision for the UNC system made possible by NGLP’s work. 

Creating resilient data is one way to define publishing in the 21st century. University presses need to expand what they think of when they think of publishing. And scholars need to think of campus-based university presses as potential partners, rather than leaning even further on commercial entities.

UNC Press might be uniquely situated to explore this kind of work. The Press owns a publishing services unit called Longleaf Services. It started as a warehouse and book fulfillment partner, but has expanded significantly into a provider of a broad suite of publishing services—everything from copyediting and typesetting to managing subsidiary rights and sales representation. We’ve gotten two grants from the Mellon Foundation to expand that work, including most recently an OA monograph program called the Sustainable History Monograph Pilot. This got us interested in all things open, but it also helped us realize that there is considerable effort to publish open content and that scaled tools were a vital resource.

At the same time, the Press created a division to focus exclusively on publishing services for the 17-campus UNC system called the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services. So in addition to publishing humanities monographs (the core mission of the Press), we started conversations with campuses to understand what their publishing needs were—and I’m sorry to say, it wasn’t more humanities monographs. They wanted journals solutions, open educational resources, turnkey solutions for publishing student work, and support for digital humanities and data-driven projects.

We realized right away that we were almost completely unprepared for this. And that as a relatively modest $6 million press, UNC wasn’t going to solve problems like this alone. But having a division at Longleaf that was focused on scaled services, we knew we had a potential roadmap to solving solutions that were otherwise out of reach. So we tasked Longleaf to study this and develop solutions.

That’s when we connected with Next Generation Library Publishing project. We realized that we needed scaled and modular open-source tools that could be adapted to the varied needs of the system campuses in North Carolina (everything from a high school focused on science and math, 4 HBCUs’, flagships, a liberal arts, and more). This was an exercise in finding scale and common back-end solutions but those that allowed for bespoke UX and publishing needs.

 Our instance of NGLP is still being modeled. We have libraries with very different capacities and needs, which is why the modularity and interoperability of NGLP is so vital. 

We still have a really long way to go. It’s not easy. If it were, someone would have done this a long time ago. But a carefully constructed network of collaborators has brought us closer than I ever could have imagined to addressing these problems. Our particular case study may not be directly reproducible in many places, but a key lesson we have learned is that we should be creative in who we invite into that network. There may be some surprising people ready to join your mission.